Friday, May 28, 2010

A Catholic Memorial Day Reflection on St. Maximilian who chose death over military service

St. Maximilian: Jerry Holsopple, iconographer
St. Maximilian, Martyr (A. D. 295), Commemoration on the Church calendar: March 12

The passion of St Maximilian is one of that small collection of precious documents that is an authentic, contemporary and unembroidered account of the trial and death of an early martyr. It runs as follows:

In the consulate of Tuscus and Anulinus, on March 12, at Theveste in Numidia, [note: Now Tebessa in Algeria. It is suggested that this is a copyist's mistake, and that the martyrdom was really somewhere near Carthage. Cf. the penultimate paragraph."] Fabius Victor was brought before the court, together with Maximilian. The public prosecutor, Pompeian, opened the case, and said, 'Fabius Victor is here with Caesar's commissary, Valerian Quintian. I demand that Maximilian, son of Victor, a conscript suitable for service, be measured.' The proconsul Dion asked the young man his name, and he answered, 'What is the good of replying? I cannot enlist, for I am a Christian'; and added when the proconsul told the usher to take his height,
'I cannot serve, I cannot do evil. I am a Christian.' The proconsul repeated his order, and the usher reported that Maximilian measured five feet ten inches. Then the proconsul said he was to be given the military badge, but Maximilian persisted, 'Never! I cannot be a soldier.'

DION: You must serve or die.

MAXIMILIAN: I will never serve. You can cut off my head, but I will not be a soldier of this world, for I am a soldier of Christ. [Footnote: "It was this insistence of the early Christians on being soldiers of Christ that gave us our word 'pagan': paganus=a civilian. Cf. Shorter Oxford Dictionary, edition of 1936."]

DION: What has put these ideas into your head?

MAXIMILIAN: My conscience and He who has called me.

DION (to Fabius Victor): Put your son right.

VICTOR: He knows what he believes, and he will not change.

DION (to Maximilian): Be a soldier and accept the emperor's badge. [Footnote: "A leaden seal (bulla), worn around the neck. Cf. the modern identity disc."]

MAXIMILIAN: Not at all. I carry the mark of Christ my God already.

DION: I shall send you to your Christ at once.

MAXIMILIAN: I ask nothing better. Do it quickly, for there is my glory.

DION (to the recruiting-officer): Give him his badge.

MAXIMILIAN: I will not take the badge. If you insist, I will deface it. I am a Christian, and I am not allowed to wear that leaden seal around my neck. For I already carry the sacred sign of the Christ, the Son of the living God, whom you know not, the Christ who suffered for our salvation, whom God gave to die for our sins. It is He whom all we Christians serve, it is He whom we follow, for He is the Lord of life, the Author of our salvation.

DION: Join the service and accept the sear, or else you will perish miserably.

MAXIMILIAN: I shall not perish: my name is even now before God. I refuse to serve.

DION: You are a young man and the profession of arms befits your years. Be a soldier.

MAXIMILIAN: My army is the army of God, and I cannot fight for this world. I tell you, I am a Christian.

DION: There are Christian soldiers serving our rulers Diocletian and Maximian, Constantius and Galerius.

MAXIMILIAN: That is their business. I also am a Christian, and I cannot serve.

DION: But what harm do soldiers do?

MAXIMILIAN: You know well enough.

DION: If you will not do your service I shall condemn you to death for contempt of the army.

MAXIMILIAN: I shall not die. If I go from this earth my soul will live with Christ my lord.

DION: Write his name down....Your impiety makes you refuse military service, and you shall be punished accordingly as a warning to others.

[He then read the sentence]
Maximilian has refused the military oath through impiety. He is to be beheaded.

MAXIMILIAN: God liveth!

Maximilian's age was twenty-one years, three months and eighteen days. On his way to death he said to the assembled Christians, 'Beloved brethren, make haste to attain the vision of God and to deserve a crown like mine with all your strength and with the deepest longing.' He was radiant; and, turning to his father, he said, 'That cloak you got ready for when I was a soldier, give it to the lictor. The fruits of this good work will be multiplied an hundredfold. May I welcome you in Heaven and glorify God with you!'

Almost at once his head was cut off.

A matron named Pompeiana obtained Maximilian's body and had it carried in her litter to Carthage, where she buried it close to the holy Cyprian, not far from the palace.

Victor went home joyfully, thanking God for having allowed him to send such a gift to Heaven, whither he was not long in following his son. Amen.

The text of the passio is in Acta Sanctorum, March, vol. ii., and Ruinart, Acta sincera. *See Allard, Histoire des Persecutions, vol. iv; Delehaye, Les Passions des martyrs... pp. 104-110.

In the Third Century the Roman army was recruited chiefly from volunteers, but the sons of veterans were under obligation to serve.

In the Roman Martyrology, St Maximilian is called Mamilianus, and the place of his martyrdom is erroneously given as Rome.


Sherry said...

How did it get so twisted? Nowadays the so-called Christian straps on his gun and goes off to fight the border wars and off to kill the Muslims. It is all so sickeningly sad. Jesus weeps anew.

claire said...

Yes, it is interesting that in the first two-three centuries after Christ, a soldier becoming Christian would leave the army (see St. Martin). But everything changed when Emperor Constantine became the first 'Christian' emperor. It was the beginning of the end of Christianity as it had been known.

Thank you for this, Billie.

函松 said...
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730A_ngelinaRabideau0 said...
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Border Explorer said...

Amen to both comments! I love you both.